About Samantha Krieger

Through story, personal reflection, & biblical insight, I'm passionate about helping others live out their faith in real life. I write articles and contribute to books on spiritual growth & Christian living. I live in Dallas with my husband and four kids.

What’s Next on Our Horizon? – Part II

kriegerfamilyphoto2015This post is continued from my husband’s blog today, “What’s Next on Our Horizon? – Part I.”

This past weekend, we traveled to the golden plains of Northeast Colorado for Jeremiah to preach at First Baptist Church Holyoke. For the past several months he has been interviewing with them for the Senior Pastor position as what has become their first choice candidate. And in that time we have been in much prayer about the next steps for our life and ministry as Jeremiah mentioned. Since the time we were dating, 11 years ago now, we have both sensed a strong desire for full-time ministry but we weren’t sure how that would be fulfilled and when that might happen. So after we got married, getting the right training and preparation was the most natural next step.

Dallas Theological Seminary was where we landed in 2006. We got plugged into our beloved church, Watermark, and were involved in an apartment outreach for two years. During this time, Jeremiah was a nurse and student part-time. We had our first child, John in 2008. We began developing some of the richest friendships we have ever had with our community group at church and fellow friends in seminary. Seminary was one of the most rewarding and challenging times of our life. We continued to grow our family and before we knew it, Jeremiah completed his Master’s in Theology in May 2012, we had our third baby and bought our first home in East Dallas. The desire for ministry remained in our hearts but we knew we needed a sabbatical so we stayed put.

Jeremiah was faithful to get his resume out there and Dallas Seminary started sending his information directly to churches. One of those churches was First Baptist Holyoke. From the get go, they were excellent in their communication (this is huge these days) and Jeremiah began the interview process through Skype calls. They flew us out in March to see the town and to gauge whether it might be a place we’d like to be permanently. They were sensitive to the fact that I didn’t grow up in a super small town and wanted to make sure I felt comfortable there.

The search committee made welcome bags with home-made cookies, coloring books and crayons for our kids. They gave us a great tour of the area and we attended the church to get a feel for it. We felt refreshed by the church body and sensed a connection with the people. They are using their gifts in a great way and have a heart to reach their town with the gospel. They have a brand new building on land and remained debt free through the building process. By the end of that trip, I felt like it was definitely a place I could see us serving in. While it is a very small town, it has a lot to offer young families. A few weeks later, Jeremiah was invited to come back and preach. The congregation would vote on him as to whether or not to extend a call for him to be the next pastor.

This past weekend he preached their Saturday night and Sunday morning services and did a greeting at the Spanish evening service. He did a wonderful job preaching out of Hebrews. I was pretty nervous during that time, but he wasn’t! The members of the church finished casting their vote on Sunday night, the search committee called him in, and let us know that the vote was very favorable and he was offered the position for Senior Pastor. Everything felt surreal and we accepted the offer, knowing this was where God was leading us. We are humbled by God’s goodness in seeing a desire and dream come to fruition that was birthed in our hearts over a decade ago.

As we embark on this new opportunity in finding out what God desires to do in and through us in Holyoke, CO, we value your prayers and support for the work that lies ahead. We know it won’t be easy, but God will be with us. We are excited for the change ahead, but of course, it is bittersweet leaving behind our family, friends, and church in Dallas.

I feel a little like Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman. She was once a city girl turned country. She has four kids and is also a writer and blogger. I am not exactly an exceptional cook though! I am looking forward to supporting my husband, new friendships, wide open spaces, sunsets, stars at night, fresh air, and a little more quiet (outside our crazy house, of course). :)

Thank you for hearing our hearts and walking alongside us. We appreciate it so much!

– Samantha & Jeremiah

 

Giving Myself Permission to Fail

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A few days ago, my 6 year old boy John came home from school ecstatic about the prizes he had won and all the candy in his Easter goodie bag from school. One of his favorites was a bouncy ball. He bounced it on our hard wood floors and on the ceiling and his sister was jumping off the walls in sync with it.

“John, take that outside please,” I tell him as I desperately wanted some peace and quiet.

He opens the door and heads outside and within 3 minutes, he’s yelling my name.

“MOM! You shouldn’t have told me to go outside! I bounced the ball and now it’s lost.”

Oh boy. There goes my quiet time.

I go outside to help him look for it and it’s nowhere to be found.

“I’m sorry John.”

“It’s your fault. You told me to go outside,” he says on the verge of tears.

I reason with him and share how he is still responsible for the ball. I let it be and let it go, but something inside me still felt like I failed him. I guess I didn’t suggest the best solution for play.

My feelings toward his lost bouncy ball reminded me of how I often feel in motherhood. Am I failing at this? I never feel like I quite have it down and as soon as I do, some other struggle and difficulty surfaces.

In her honest article, “My Pact to Become Good at Failure,” Mandy Arioto says,

“In a sense, motherhood offered me new eyes to see that failure can be the thing that saves us. This is what I’ve come to believe about failure: it’s good. Just like childbirth is good. And by good I mean incredibly painful. Failure hurts, but there is tremendous potential for goodness to be born through it.”

– (Hello, Darling MOPS Magazine Spring Issue, pg. 29)

I think she is right on. For so many years, I have looked at failure as a bad thing. Could it be though, that failure can be turned into a good and godly thing?

When a deeply invested friendship hasn’t turned out the way I thought, I’ve felt like a failure. When I can’t seem to balance all the needs of my children and love my husband well, I’ve felt like a failure. When I lash out and say words I would’ve never imagined saying to those I love, I’ve felt like a failure. When dinner is not what anyone wants to eat, yep… failure.

And then there are situations and circumstances in the past that haunt my heart today in light of failure: A hurtful word, an unacceptable grade, the inability to do what was expected, a damaged relationship, and more.

IMG_7096Regardless of the sin I’ve committed and the sin that’s been done to me, God still uses failure and all the pain and suffering attached to it. Maybe we don’t see the purposes now — that’s okay. God loves us in the midst of our deepest failures.

There is never a time when He is shaking his fists and yelling at us to get our act together; rather His arms are outstretched like a father to his child. He tells us to, “Come.”  He accepts us by grace through faith, not by any good works we have done. Even on our best day, we still fall short. That’s why we need Him. That is what we celebrate this Easter.

I will fail, but I am not defined by my failures because God redeems them. He forgives. He is gracious. He is patient. And pain, while it is so difficult, can be a wonderful tool for growth and change and Christ-likeness. If I gave myself permission to fail, and let God pick up the broken pieces for me, I’m pretty sure I would start to see things with a fresh pair of lenses where grace saturates the world around me. It is a daily battle to rely on these truths, but it’s possible.

Well, the bouncy ball incident hasn’t been talked about all weekend until yesterday when John stormed into the house and yelled:

“MOM! I found the ball. It was in front of the slide!” He threw his arms around my waist and almost knocked me down, to which I translated: Mom you’re still the best!

The Love Song {That Changes Everything}

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Last night, my husband and I had one of those out of the ordinary evenings where we stayed up late in bed together talking, reminiscing about our college and dating days, and how we were so thankful God gave us one another when we least expected it. We reflected on our wedding day and all that led up to it.

“It’s kind of sad… we never really had a song,” Jeremiah said.

I thought about it for a minute and it was kind of sad.

“We just chose one because we had to for our first dance,” he said.

He was right. We dated for seven months and were engaged for six. Everything happened so fast. I thought about the beautiful song we chose (or that he let me choose!), “When You Say You Love Me” by Josh Groban and some of the words in it:

“And this journey that we are on. How far we’ve come and I celebrate every moment. And when you say you love me, that’s all you have to say. I’ll always feel this way…”

Our wedding day was just the beginning of our journey together. We weren’t that “far” into it yet. Like our vows, we didn’t fully understand the words of that song or that a day might come when we’d be tempted to throw in the towel. That there might be a day when our burning, unquenchable love wouldn’t “always feel this way.”

“I think the journey we’ve been on is our song,” I told Jeremiah. “It tells the real story better than any mere love song could. Plus, our song is still being written.”

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The journey of our marriage sings the song that no matter what, through thick and thin, we are committed to one another and will fight for our marriage. We will persevere through adversity because we promised, “Until death do us part” to God and to our loved ones.

The lyrics over our last nine years tell a story of lost dreams, disappointments, job promotions, job losses, accidents, lessons learned, poor communication, passion, romance, pursuit, isolation, intimacy struggles, financial pressure, adventure,  forgiveness, reconciliation, suffering, unconditional love, friendship, unmet expectations, unexplainable joy, and more.

Our relationship has been filled with mountain tops and valleys. Marriage is a battlefield, not always the bed of roses we often dream of. It’s more about strapping up your boots and putting on your armor to fight against your flesh and sinful nature.

Our nine years of marriage have told a story of our sin exposed to the bone, but also of unconditional love, acceptance, and grace – where we have seen our Savior’s love shine brighter than the love we share. We’ve experienced a Savior who sought us in our messy sin – who didn’t wait for us to clean up.

We know a Savior whose blood was shed for our freedom and righteousness. We worship a Savior who has rescued us out of darkness and into light and who is restoring and making all things new.

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We live for a Savior, Jesus Christ, God’s son, who has reconciled us to himself – not because of anything we have done but because of everything He has done. We surrender to a Savior who cares deeply for our relationship so that His song would be a melody for others to join in and be inspired by. So that ultimately others would know what His love is really like.

Patient. Forgiving. Sacrificial. Gentle. Kind. Humble. Selfless. Strong. True. Perfect. Enduring. Everlasting. And so much more.

The truth is that we’ve always had a song – the song of redemption. It was lived out as two imperfect young lovers anticipating the day we would say “I do.” It’s been lived out every year we’ve tried to love the best we know how, yet still come up so short. It has met us in our biggest fights and shameful behaviors. It sings louder than all other songs written by human, finite hands.

This song of redemption – Christ’s rescuing and restoring of broken people back to Himself – is for every marriage to behold and know personally. It is far greater than any song shared solely between two lovers because it invites others to share its glory and splendor.

It changes everything. And it is yours to sing too.

The Truth About Why We Need Mom Friends

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This particular day my friend Vanny was over at my place for a playdate with her two girls. We had known each other for a couple years now and always seemed to naturally connect on a deeper level. I felt like I needed to be more vulnerable and share with her my recent struggles. They were affecting me and my clan.

We stood in my kitchen slicing pieces of chocolate chip banana bread for our kids and I decided it was time to share. My heart raced, and I let it out:

“I’ve been struggling with cussing to myself and sometimes out loud from all the pressure that’s on me as a mom and feeling so overwhelmed.”

She was now the first to know, along with my husband.

Vanny looked at me with eyes of understanding and compassion, not judgement which I feared.

“I get it. I do too, at times.”

I couldn’t believe it. She struggled with this too?

I slowly felt the burdens of guilt, shame, and fear being lifted. And the truth was that I didn’t have a cussing problem. I had a heart problem. Spewing careless words from my lips revealed a deeper struggle with control and anger over things not going my way. I felt I just couldn’t meet all the needs of my children at once, and I became a Mama I didn’t want to be.

From the abundance of the heart, his mouth speaks – Luke 6:45

The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? – Jeremiah 17:9, NLT

In motherhood, we need mom friends we can lean on for hope and encouragement. The kind of friends we can deeply share how:

We aren’t sure if we’re doing this whole thing right

We caused a World War II in our kitchen with our kids and husband 

We struggle with yelling and impatience

We wish we still fit into that old pair of jeans

We feel like we live in the kitchen and nothing else gets done

We wonder at the end of every day if we showed our kids enough love…

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You need the kind of friend who will:

  • Speak the truth in love, even when it’s difficult
  • Extend grace in areas where your views are different
  • Sharpen you to be a better wife, friend, and mom
  • Let you drop off your kids for a few hours to save your sanity
  • Tell you you’re doing a great job
  • Laugh and cry with you
  • Check in and see how you’re really doing
  • Love you in your beautiful mess

And we need to be that kind of friend too.

When I joined my MOPS group in February two years ago, I was seeking support and encouragement on how to be a better mom but I realized later that I was also seeking friendship. My life has been so rich because of the mamas who have loved on me, brought meals when they had their own kids to take care of, babysat my kids when I was going crazy, wrote letters of encouragement, texted to say they were praying, and more. Through that process of sharing life and being there for each other, it has become natural to share our struggles. I have experienced what it means to be known by another person and still fully loved.

Every day I still struggle to do things right, but God is helping me to control my tongue and to ultimately understand his unconditional love – which changes everything. I’m a mess, and he loves me still. He met me in the midst of my mess. He is the one who will carry the heavy burdens for me.

God gives the gift of friendship as a tangible tool for love, hope, support, and encouragement in our life. And because of that, I desire to be all in when it comes to embracing authentic friendship in my life even when it requires a whole lot of bravery.

 

My One Word Resolution for 2015

Last year, I ditched the long list of resolutions and clung to a one word resolution instead. As we approach the end of 2014, I’m happy to report that I loved honing in on one word and remembering it throughout the year. Don’t get me wrong, historically I’ve been a goal setter and definitely believe in beginning with the end in mind but as a busy wife and momma, I did so much better last year focusing on one key word to implement in my life.

Discipline was the word I chose last year and it came to mind often. I have seen discipline in my life when it comes to: reading and studying the Bible, committing to a running routine/accountability partner, writing 2 book proposals, meeting weekly with my community group girls, and home organization. I didn’t do so great at journaling, putting letters in the mail or relying less on caffeine.

When I look at what I want 2015 to hold, the word JOY is inescapable for me. Theopedia defines joy as:

A state of mind and an orientation of the heart. It is a settled state of contentment, confidence, and hope. It is something or someone that provides a source of happiness. It appears 88 times in the Old Testament in 22 books; 57 times in the New Testament in 18 books…

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Joy is actually an area that I struggle with particularly in motherhood. The daily demands of meeting my children’s needs is often overwhelming, especially at their ages. It is a serious job indeed, but I don’t think I laugh or smile enough. Sometimes the daily grind affects my relationship with my husband when I really don’t want it to. Too often, I allow the pressures, trials, and temptations of life in general to steal my joy. And it shouldn’t be that way.

For a while, I thought I was the only one who needed more joy in my life until I talked with my friend Amy over coffee a few months ago and she boldly shared that she was praying for this in her life as well. I would’ve never guessed she was praying for more joy too. We talked about some joy stealers:

  • Comparing yourself/children/husband to others
  • Discontentment with where God has you
  • Unmet expectations
  • Coveting what someone else has
  • Unforgiveness
  • Constantly giving of yourself and no time for solitude
  • Resentment
  • Self-pity
  • Loss of purpose
  • Thinking God didn’t get it right
  • Finding hope in yourself instead of God and more…

I realize that joy will not come by my own strength or will, either. It is not something I can create with my own hands or wish for. This second fruit of the spirit is only found in Jesus as he produces this spirit inside me as I submit to him. It is not dictated by circumstances or experiences. It is a condition of the heart and it remains even in the midst of great suffering and adversity.

Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. – Hebrews 12:2

I don’t know what 2015 will hold, but I know Who holds the future. When I’m tempted to worry of fear about tomorrow, I can instead place my hope and joy in Christ. I’m confident that He will give me what I need and that joy can actually be more real and evident in my life than ever before.

Have you made any resolutions or considered choosing one word you’d like to focus on? If you struggle with joy, let’s team up and fight for it together this coming year.

 

Facing My Greatest Mom Struggles

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Waiting to get cider and popcorn at the Christmas tree farm

This particular evening we had friends and family over for dinner and my 3-year-old daughter was in a destructive mood, throwing things and screaming. She had already banged her head into our hard wood floors that morning from not getting her way. I was sitting on the couch and before I knew it, she launched one of her toys straight at me and struck me right in the forehead. Tears welled up in my eyes from the pain. I gazed into her blue eyes with anger and yelled her name. My blood was boiling inside.

This was just one of the many incidents of the past months. Constant disobedience, name-calling, extreme fits over how I squeezed the mustard on her hot dog to what clothes I put on her head, to her socks being too thick and refusing to wear them so we could never get out the door.

I could never satisfy her. No matter how hard I tried, she refused my help. I immediately got up to discipline her and I felt like it was just never going to end with her behavior. If you could call me a “closet cryer” – a term I heard recently from a mom friend – I was by all means one of them. And I won’t lie, a good cry is sometimes the best medicine.

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A captured moment at the botanical gardens. Thanks Cori! No one is crying.

This was my life the past two years with our second, strong-willed child, Rebekah. In that time we also welcomed her sister and brother so life had its joys and challenges. Rebekah turned 4 this past October and the past four years in raising and attempting to love her the best I know how, I discovered new fears and struggles in motherhood I never thought possible:

  • Am I scarring and screwing her up for life?
  • Will she ever be able to make friends?
  • Does she know and even feel my love for her?
  • Will we ever have a good relationship?
  • What did I do wrong?
  • Is all the hard work I’m doing day in and day out, enough?
  • If anyone knew how I treated her in the desperate moments, they’d look down on me
  • Why did God choose me to be her mother?

If you’re reading this and have a strong-willed child of your own, you know that one “determined” child can feel like you have 3 extra children. Your energy is depleted. You’re emotionally, physically, and spiritually drained. You can feel far from God because of the guilt you feel from not being able to handle the behavior in a godly manner (Ie., resorting to yelling, spanking in anger, cussing under your breath, and more). You just don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. You feel like a horrible mom who has a child that no one can understand. You often feel alone in your struggles. “God, help me” is your daily prayer. I get it.

In reading the new book Brave Mom by Sherry Surratt (President and CEO of MOPS – Mother’s of Preschoolers), my heart has been so encouraged. In her chapter, “There is No Perfect Child,” she writes how as we are raising our children, their personality struggles and behavior issues are mere snapshots into their life.

No single snapshot can convey who your child will become– the complete, complex album of a life which reveals God’s good plan for her. It is this creation – this series of life portraits of your child- which will endure, not the frustrating snapshot moments. God’s album for your child gives the big picture of lessons learned, of temperaments refined, of maturity blending with experience to produce a beautiful person indeed. (pg. 89)

These snapshots don’t make up the whole story or define their whole life. And as we look into the mirror as moms, our imperfections don’t define us either. I have found freedom knowing that there is a bigger story going on and it’s not over. I have found freedom that God’s grace covers me in my weakest moments.

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One of my favorites of Rebekah smiling at me Thanksgiving weekend

Today, our Rebekah is still a fireball. But she is smart as a whip, courageous, and has a beautiful soul. I have found ways to her heart like letting her have control in the kitchen with me cooking up recipes. I used to fear she would burn down the house, but she’s proven herself as cautious. She loves Pioneer Woman on Netflix so we watch that together. She enjoys creating with her hands. I discovered that giving her opportunities to stimulate her senses helps calm her down: giving her a warm shower, rolling play dough, building legos, painting a picture, and playing with rice and bean bins (a mess on the floor is worth her enjoyment).

She still tells me she doesn’t like me at times and name-calling still spills from her lips. But when I was gone on a trip for 4 days recently she told me to “never do that again.” She still has fits but they are less. She is making new friends too. She still refuses to put her socks on before we leave, so I put them in the car so when we reach our destination she has no other option. She still struggles, just as I do, but I’m learning to love her even when it’s not reciprocated. I’m learning that God made her just the way she is.

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The fears and struggles I have are real. I’ve definitely had my share for today. More are coming in the future. But my struggles are making me into a braver mom and helping me realize that I’m doing the best I know how as I ultimately surrender my strong-willed child to God and allow him to create a beautiful and God-honoring portrait of her life, and of mine too.

This story was inspired by the book Brave Mom: Facing and Overcoming Your Real Mom Fears and has been linked up with MOPS International. Their editor has given me a copy to giveaway. Please leave a comment if you’d like to enter to win.

Book Proposals and Trusting God’s Plan

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It’s been quite some time since I blogged last. Okay, four months! That is a long time but so much has been going on that I wanted to fill you in on. At the beginning of this year, an email popped up in my inbox that I didn’t expect. A Christian publisher who I greatly respect had taken notice of one of my article’s and asked about my interest in writing a book on the topic of relationships. Anyone who has known me for a long time knows that being an author has been a life long dream since the 4th grade. My heart beat fast and I was ecstatic.

I told my husband and my family and closest friends. I got back in touch with the publisher with an idea that they liked and I moved forward with working on the proposal. Jeremiah watched the kids for me on the weekends while I’d go to our local coffee shop to hammer out the first few sample chapters.

I felt like God was calling me to write for single women who are waiting on God’s will for a spouse, similar to the book Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Eliott. Deep down, I felt too intimated to tackle the topic of marriage. I submitted the proposal and felt confident. In May, I heard back from the publisher and they loved and affirmed my writing and passion, but felt like the market was too crowded for the idea to sell, but that maybe we just needed to explore a different direction.

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I was tempted to get discouraged but Jeremiah encouraged me that it wasn’t rejection, but redirection. I knew he was right and I wasn’t going to give up. I realized the market really was crowded and deep in my heart I felt God had something different in mind. Shortly after that time, Jeremiah and I began to brainstorm ideas on marriage. After all, I had been writing marriage articles for over 2.5 years now.

Jeremiah was able to make my ideas better since he’s a visionary and I’m more detail oriented. We found ourselves really excited working on our idea together. We pitched it to the publisher and suggested the idea of Jeremiah and I writing it together as co-authors. Slowly, my fears of writing a book on marriage began to fade as I realized it wasn’t about me.

Several weeks later while we were on our road trip from Texas to Michigan, we were able to talk on the phone further with the publisher.  I was so thankful for our conversation and their willingness to help us narrow our idea. They asked us to come up with a detailed proposal so when we got home from vacation, we got right to work whenever time allowed.

As we neared the end, we sent it to a few author and editor friends for feedback, we changed one of the sample chapters completely, we kept editing and polishing it up some more, and after letting it sit a while and then coming back to it for more edits, we decided it was finally ready.

Well,  I’m happy to say that we just recently submitted the proposal! So now we are waiting to see if the publisher would like to move forward.

This whole process has been such a journey, especially in the midst of raising our four young children and Jeremiah starting a remodeling business. It’s been busy, chaotic, hopeful, and exciting. We’ve definitely experienced spiritual warfare and arguments–  To be expected when tackling such a project. But I have been so blessed being able to work alongside my husband and watch his gifts shine through. When I compare this proposal to my first, I feel like it’s so much better having his point-of-view, insight, and thoughts from the male perspective. I absolutely love the book concept and it is unique in today’s market.

What I’ve realized most in this journey is that God’s plans are not mine. They are better. After hitting the send button to the publisher, I felt nervous and excited. Nervous knowing that they may or may not think it will sell, but excited at the possibility that it very well could and we might get to sign a contract. Of course, we’re praying for the latter.

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During the writing process, I’ve also felt who are we to write a book on marriage? At times, we feel so broken in our relationship and some days are just plain hard. But that is the beauty of the gospel. Jesus comes down to us. He puts things in our lap not because we deserve them. With his life laid down, he raises us out of brokenness and sin and chooses us to be a part of his mission. He uses imperfect people and reveals his perfection. That is a mystery I’ll never get over.

I’m humbled and honored at even the chance to send a proposal to a publisher and at the thought that God could use our stories and experiences to encourage other young married couples out there.

So rather than doubt myself or God’s plan, at the end of the day the only questions that really matters are, Am I surrendered to His will? Do I trust that His plans are good?

So no matter the outcome, we’ve giving it over to Him with palms open.

We certainly appreciate your prayers as we wait. In the mean time, I look forward to posting again when I’m not cleaning up messes and taming tantrums. :)

Book Review & Giveaway: “Team Us” by Ashleigh Slater (Moody Publishers)

UnknownToday I’m so excited to review the new book Team Us by first-time author Ashleigh Slater. I was first introduced to Ashleigh several years ago when she gave me the chance to write for her webzine for women, Ungrind.org. I have always appreciated Ashleigh’s love for helping others grow in their walk with Christ. I’m thrilled that her first book is out and that it’s doing so well… as in… it’s selling so well that it’s out of stock on Amazon :)

It’s been a while since I’ve been able to get through a whole book so fast. From the moment you open the first pages, you see Ashleigh’s gifted story-telling, passion, respect and love for her husband, whimsical humor, and the ability to intertwine real life issues with biblical truth.

Ashleigh writes in such a way that is refreshing and real, like you’re having coffee with a close friend. She doesn’t claim to have marriage all figured out either, which I love. She writes with authority on the subject because she’s lived it out for more than 10 years. Ashleigh and her husband Ted have learned how to practice grace towards one another in every day life and dealings and she lets you in on their experiences and life lessons. Learning how to extend grace to your spouse and adopting a team spirit is what the book is all about.

Halfway through Team Us, Ashleigh candidly reveals a time in their marriage that she calls the Weeping Years where she and Ted experienced some of the most difficult trials of their lives but how God’s grace remained steadfast and pulled them through. She vividly describes a situation where all hope seemed lost and then God made a way. Those chapters were my favorite and I found myself nodding my head and relating so much to them.

The beauty of this book is that you’ll remember the truths in it long after you’re finished. It’s no wonder that Team Us has been endorsed by Gary Thomas, Gary Chapman, Kirk Cameron and more. The team work approach was a huge takeaway for me so much that when my husband and I are working on something together or need to be reminded that we are in fact a team, I’ll say out loud to him, “Team Us!” in an encouraging tone. He smiles and we remember that we’re not against each other even in the midst of our struggles. And speaking of husbands, throughout each chapter Ashleigh includes funny and insightful blurbs written by Ted offering his perspective.

Whether you’re single, newlywed, or have been married for years, Team Us will help you learn how to have a more satisfying, light-hearted, and God-glorifying marriage.

I’m giving away one copy today. To enter to win, please comment with what your primary love language is (Quality Time, Words of Affirmation, Physical touch, Receiving gifts, or Acts of Service). I’ll choose the winner randomly and announce on Monday.

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Congratulations, Ashleigh!

About Ashleigh Slater: Ashleigh Slater is the author of the book, Team Us: Marriage Together (Moody Publishers). As the founder and editor of Ungrind Webzine and a regular contributor at several popular blogs and websites, she loves to combine the power of a good story with biblical truth and practical application. Ashleigh lives in Atlanta with her husband Ted and four daughters. To learn more, visit AshleighSlater.com. You can also find her on Facebook here or follow her on Twitter at @ashslater.

 

A Few Simple (and Freeing) Truths I’ve Realized in Raising Young Children

10341519_902198183138904_4226605190141266055_nThere’s a lot of stuff flowing around in my newsfeed about what you should and shouldn’t be doing with your children. Articles about how much screen time your child should have, what they should or shouldn’t be eating, when they should or shouldn’t be potty trained, who they should or shouldn’t be hanging out with and more.

I don’t know about you but sometimes I feel intense pressure and fear that I’m not getting it right. I’m screwing up because I’m not doing “this” or “that.” Half the time, I’m just trying to make it to the next day.

As someone who already struggles at times toward legalism, I gravitate toward the do’s and don’ts. And sometimes I sadly take pride in it.

After having my fourth child however my views have changed a lot. I’ve become more laid back realizing that my “list” isn’t always God’s agenda. I can say now that my daughter Rebekah is fully potty trained (at 3 1/2). Praise the Lord as it’s been a long journey. And it was never on my timetable no matter how much I prodded. My son John took until just before he was 4.

Some times my kids eat macaroni, hot dogs, and non-organic popsicles. Sometimes they play with kids at our local park that live in the affordable housing near it. Yep, and sometimes they hear cuss words from them too.

I get it though. I want to protect them as much as I can. I want them to be healthy. I want them to be on time developmentally. Contributors not burdens to society. Lights in this world of darkness. I don’t want them to follow the broad path that leads to destruction and death. I really want them behaving well and for their hearts to know right from wrong. I want to be present with them and enjoy them as young babies. And most of all, I want them to follow Jesus and all his ways.

I’ve found so much freedom though in letting go of control, my do’s and don’ts, and letting God guide our family. I’ve found freedom in flexibility and moderation. I confess that we do watch Netflix when I’m cooking meals. Otherwise my house would burn down. I know the news and writers out there mean well in the parenting articles. I’ve probably written a well-meaning article and I’m sure a reader has felt he or she hasn’t measured up in some way. Most of the time those articles are written to help us be better parents and I think that’s great.

But my point is to encourage you as a parent to live in freedom, not chained to the do’s and don’ts regarding the smaller things. To live in moderation because it is possible. To not feel guilty because you’re doing a great job and the best you know how. If you’re a Christ follower, rest assured that the Holy Spirit will convict you when you’ve been on the iPhone too long, when that video should be turned off, or when you feel the nudge to have your son say goodbye to his rough-on-the-edges friend at the park.

The Holy Spirit will convict you when you’re not leading well as a parent. And He can change you in that struggle toward anger, control, or whatever it may be. Be patient with yourself.

God is molding all our families in different ways and He is the One who is sovereign over all the details. I know I’ll read another article where I won’t feel like I measure up, but I hope to remember the truth that I only need to look to the Lord first for help and direction.

And I really do have the ability to live freely as I love and disciple my children. I can rest in the truth that they know I love them.

A Mother’s Sweet Sacrifice

My mom holding my son Will - 2 days old

Mom holding my son Will – 2 days old

One day in middle school, I came home feeling hurt by a friend. I don’t remember the details but there were tears. Before bed I talked to my mom about the situation. Just like every night, she stood beside my bed and tucked me inside the covers. She suggested we pray about it. Tender, wisdom-filled words sprang from her heart. Her presence calmed my frustrations and pain.

As I think about Mother’s Day this weekend and all that my my mom means to me, one of her greatest gifts has been prayer. And now that I’ve been a mother for almost six years, I’m just scratching the surface of how sacrificial the role of a mother really is.

In motherhood, you rarely receive accolades and praise. You may receive words of encouragement occasionally but in the daily grind of cleaning messes, dirty dishes, staying on top of schoolwork, and tackling piles of laundry you just don’t hear affirmation. I’ll be honest, at times my flesh craves the hand claps and pats on the back.

You sacrifice your time, energy, and whole life as you tend to the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of your children. You give of yourself while you nurse a nasty nose, bandage cuts, wipe dirty bottoms, manage major meltdowns and fits, discipline unruly behavior, shepherd wayward hearts, prepare meals, clean up meals and do it all over again the next day.

Sometimes you have to say “no” to good things and outings or shaving your legs and looking pretty so you can just meet the basic needs of your children. And when you’re not expending physical energy, you’re exerting yourself emotionally as you pray for their safety and choices.

quotescover-JPG-51This sacrifice involves both joy and pain because motherhood is a daily dying to your self- giving up your life for the sake of another. Putting your child’s needs before your own. Loving him or her more than you love yourself.

We know this from Jesus, our perfect example of selflesssness:

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” – Phil 2:3

“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” – Matt. 10:39

In this sacrifice you’ll often feel like you’re spinning your wheels. You won’t see fruit. You’ll be exhausted and want to throw in the towel. You won’t think you’re making a difference. You’ll feel guilty when you mess up. You’ll worry you’re not doing it right. You’ll get sick and tired of correcting and disciplining defiant behavior. You’ll pray “God, help me,” feeling like a broken record.

And then out of the blue a day will come when you watch your son’s compassion and love as he befriends an adult with special needs at a school picnic and asks to eat his hotdog with her. When your daughter scrubs her skin with soap in the bathtub, happily singing a church song about how Jesus washes our sins away with “super soap” and her words convict and touch you deeply. When you ask your son if he wants to ask Jesus to live in his heart and he replies, “Mom… I’ve always believed.”

When there are moments of harmony in your home and it’s a glimpse of heaven.

And the taste of your sacrifice is nothing but sweet. And you thank God for all the gifts, joys, and blessings of being a mother and for the ability to invest in the life of your child. You thank God that he uses you in the midst of your imperfections.

quotescover-JPG-91Remember Momma… Stuff is happening in your sacrifice. Stuff you may see now. Stuff you might not see until years to come. Stuff you may not get to see here on earth.

Don’t lose sight that the around-the-clock, demanding work you’re doing will reap dividends as you stay faithful to Christ and your family. Even if no one is praising you, God sees your work as worthy. 

After that night my mom prayed with me, I slept soundly. I went to school the next day and the conflict was resolved. I was relieved and felt at peace again. God answered our prayers. I look back on that evening as just one of the many examples of my mom’s constant love, care, concern, and sacrifice throughout my whole life as her child. Her sacrificial love is forever imprinted on my heart.